The show continues to be funny and full of crackling chemistry between the leads, who take bickering romance to new extremes. It’s totally childish and the behavior can veer ridiculous at moments, but it’s all the funnier for how committed these two actors play the absurdity.
After this episode, gummimochi will be taking over recaps, to deliver our weekly Marriage Plot fix. Woot woot.
SONG OF THE DAY
Busker Busker – “전활 거네” (Calling on the phone) [ Download ]
EPISODE 2 RECAP
After getting alarming news from their respective parents, Gun-hee and and Kang-jae bolt to go meet them (separately, that is).
Kang-jae interrupts his father’s lunch to protest that he can’t work under Gun-hee, of all people, going from her boss to her underling overnight. Dad tells him fine, then go to Alaska. Well, that shuts him up. In a nutshell: Kang-jae has no choice but to suck it up, work for Gun-hee, and give Sangcharim a successful launch into the kimchi market.
Gun-hee finds her family at dinner, and Mom says wearily that running the business is too hard for her—she knows kimchi, but not administration. (Spoiled third daughter Min-jung chirps that even if they’re ruined, it’ll probably take three years before the money runs out, right?) Therefore she’s selling their home and starting up a boardinghouse instead.
Gun-hee’s initial reaction is optimistic; okay, then she’ll “scout” Mom to work for her, since she’s been put in charge of her company’s kimchi project. Mom balks, though, resolute in her philosophy that things entering human bodies should be handled with precious care, not treated like money-making products you whip up in a factory.
The conversation reverts to the old pattern, and Gun-hee’s pride rears its head as she retorts, “That’s why your business failed!” Collective recoil as the family watches that line she crossed receding into the far distance. (It’s especially harsh given that Mom’s business is actually thriving.)
Gun-hee declares that fine, she’ll show Mom that she can turn Sangcharim’s kimchi project into a success, proving Mom wrong. Oh, honey. Hopefully one day you’ll learn to be nicer to Mom, ideally in the next few episodes.
Kang-jae calls Gun-hee out for drinks, and now that the tables are turned (though she doesn’t know yet that she’ll be his boss), he’s so polite that it makes her suspicious. He asks a few pointed questions about her memory (Is it weak? Does drinking ever cause her to forget what happened?) that should make her wary…
But no matter, since he’s the one who ends up totally trashed, drunkenly complaining about her misleading definition of “My tolerance is only so-so,” which translated to six bottles of soju. Haha.
She tries to carry him on her back, which he naturally balks at since men can’t let women carry them. And then he vomits on her head. Ewwwwww.
I’m pretty sure this is the best *shakes fist at universe* screenshot from any drama ever.
At work the next day, Kang-jae grabs some coffee from the machine, which jogs his memory to a previous coffee-related incident…
It was in Gun-hee’s rookie days, when she was instructed to get coffee for the rest of the team. She’d balked on the grounds of sexual discrimination, and Kang-jae had told her that somebody’s gotta do it, and she should just grit her teeth and do it anyway.
Because of her refusal, that meant Kang-jae would’ve been next in line for coffee duty, so he’d taken up the issue with their boss, pretending all of her idealistic reasons were his own while really just wanting to get out of it himself. The issue had resolved when Gun-hee had ended up doing coffee duty anyway, as he’d advised—and then he openly mocked her for it.
Now Gun-hee is interviewed by a journalist, on the angle that she’s Sangcharim’s first female team manager. Gun-hee relates the same story, and is held up for her feminist ideals. She argues that the so-called “traditions” of the office require change starting at the smallest levels, and says she will create a new tradition with this kimchi project: regardless of gender, the one to bring the coffee will be the most junior.
Enter Kang-jae, said junior, serving the coffee. Hee.
Gun-hee cottons to the executive lifestyle right away, enjoying a personal phone call and smirking to hear her friend broke it off with her cheating boyfriend while feigning sympathy. It’s little moments like this that do, frankly, make Gun-hee difficult to warm to, although I’m still willing to go with it because I know a change is coming.
Kang-jae catches her taking off her hose at her desk, and she gets defensive in her embarrassment, taking a hard line on disciplinary habits (no late arrivals, no early departures, no personal calls at work).
They bicker back and forth until he slams down a business proposal on her desk, reminding her that the sooner she gets her mother’s Chinjung Kimchi to merge with Sangcharim, the sooner they can stop having to work together.
At her resistance, he offers/threatens to contact her mother directly, to which she declares that she’s going to succeed on her own—she’ll develop, market, and launch her product herself. Also, he’s doing the company’s upcoming “5-minute English speech,” never mind that he can’t speak English.
Mom and eldest daughter Sun-hee get to work converting the new property into a boarding home. One very unusual condition of taking boarders? An entrance interview. Ha! Well, I guess if she’s scouting for potential sons-in-law, she’ll want to be systematic about it.
Kang-jae drops by the Chinjung offices to meet with Mom, but the mere mention of Sangcharim is enough to get Mom to refuse to meet him and she tells her assistant, Director Park, to turn him away. Not deterred, Kang-jae offers to wait anyway.
Gun-hee meets with Sangcharim’s president, and now we see that they’re on somewhat friendly terms—President Lee was friends with her father and knew her as a child, though they didn’t realize the connection until after she got the job here. He compliments her mother’s kimchi and wonders why they can’t make anything that good. He offers her added incentive to succeed in this kimchi enterprise: He’ll make her the company’s first woman director.
Gun-hee hears from her sister that Kang-jae dropped by the office to see Mom, which could be risky for her in two ways: She’d been a brat to Mom about not needing her help, and Kang-jae might learn that she hasn’t even tasted Mom’s kimchi. She can’t give him that kind of leverage.
So Gun-hee races to get there first, while asking unni to run interference on Mom’s end. She finds Kang-jae and orders him out, but he smirks that this is official business. She warns him ominously to comply, and when he just mocks her back, she takes his hand and puts it on her boob and screams. HA.
She cries pervert and slaps him, attracting the notice of all of her mother’s employees. Kang-jae holds his hands up trying to say he’s innocent, but he’s caught red-handed and has to flee, dashing away just as Mom arrives.
So Kang-jae finds himself being chased through the neighborhood by a group of ajusshis, and one opportunistic thief takes advantage of the melee to snatch a woman’s purse and runs with the crowd. Kang-jae sees the thief running next to him with a WTF? look on his face, and after a split-second of hesitation, goes after him. He performs the tackle successfully, but winds up at the police station alongside the mugger.
Hilariously, the mugged woman can’t tell which man stole her purse and Kang-jae doesn’t exactly feel like calling himself a sexual harasser, so the cop is left trying to figure out who’s who. The thief even tries to take advantage of the situation, saying he’s the guy who caught the mugger.
Gun-hee can’t in good conscience let him take this fall, so she arrives at the police station and tells the officer that she made a mistake, retracting the accusation. Kang-jae perks up and immediately announces this to the whole station, just to make sure everybody is clear that he’s no pervert. But then he pulls his typical Kang-jae move by adding, “I would like to sue her for false accusations.” Ha, Kang-jae, if only you knew when to stop. Smugly, he tells her, “See you in court.”
So it is that Gun-hee takes the seat opposite the officer for questioning. Her sister chats with Kang-jae outside, and when he asks to speak with her mother, she remembers her role as interferer and tells him Mom’s tied up… because the company is doing poorly and therefore she’s starting up a boarding house. Oh, unni. And your intentions are so good.
Kang-jae’s much sharper than unni, who’s sweet but sorta dense as rocks, and picks out the relevant information: Chinjung Kimchi is in trouble, and Mom’s taking interviews for boarders. On his ride home, he sees an ad for an errand service and gets An Idea.
The next day at work, a shipment of bean-paste soup (bottled for sale as a ready-to-eat product) gets sent to their office for temporary storage. It’s cheonggukjang, that stew that smells like feet (honestly), and Gun-hee struggles to open the jar. And splatters it all over herself.
Mom continues with boardinghouse remodeling, and takes another phone call with her unseen friend. (We don’t know who this is yet, but I don’t think it would be terribly spoiling to say that her profile tells us she has a hidden boyfriend. Ostensibly she’s not ready to introduce him to the girls yet, but from the way she talks to him, she’s very close with him.) She updates him on her plans, saying that this will give her the chance to bond with her daughters.
Flighty Min-jung shops with a frenemy and doesn’t seem very concerned about her family’s woes… until she can’t buy a cute dress because her credit cards are declined. Heh.
Her friend smirks at her misfortune and buys the dress for herself, telling Min-jung snootily, “Can you take off the dress? So I can wear it.” It’s hard to side with either one when they’re both brats.
Over lunch, Gun-hee tells her sunbae Su-ho about the splattered bean-paste incident, and he wonders why she was so intent on opening it. She sees it as a metaphor for herself—people are always asking why she always has to win, why she doesn’t ever let go, satisfied at putting in a good effort. She says she just wants to do a good job, but everyone calls her tough for it.
She wonders if people will ever get her, and Su-ho smiles in his nice, gentle way: “I get you—am I not enough?” Pleased, she tells him that he always makes her feel at ease.
Kang-jae storms up with narrowed eyes and asks why she’s doing this. She assumes he’s talking about the merger; he’s thinking of the smelly cheonggukjang spilled in their office. Hehe.
They bicker back and forth, having two entirely separate conversations until he comes to a horrified conclusion: “Then if that wasn’t cheonggukjang, what was it I touched….?” How dare she do something so vile!
He stalks off in disgust, leaving Gun-hee wondering at his strange response… only to realize a half-second later, to her own disgust. How dare he think she’d do something so vile! Hahaha.
Gun-hee chases him down the hall, throwing cheonggukjang at Kang-jae like a monkey throwing… well, we’ve already established what that looks like.
On the upside (hey, I’m a glass-half-full kinda girl), this gives President Lee the chance to give the instruction, “Tell them… not to make it… look like poop.” As for Gun-hee, he sees no need to take action against her behavior, since his son has finally met his match.
Kang-jae genuinely doesn’t understand why Gun-hee refuses to work on the Chinjung acquisition. If Chinjung is in financial difficulty, isn’t this merger a good thing? She argues that she’ll succeed on her own merit, but he doesn’t see how they’re mutually exclusive. That’s ’cause he doesn’t see all the family dynamics in play and her fierce pride that somehow equates appealing to Mom for help as a weakness.
Gun-hee finds her sister Min-jung waiting for her at their new home, appealing to her to do something about Mom. She’s mostly worried about her clothing allowance shriveling up, and argues that they need to block Mom from heading down the wrong path. At the news that Mom sold everything—house, company, land—to focus on the boardinghouse, Gun-hee beelines to find her.
The boardinghouse is finally done and ready to open, furnished nicely and looking good, albeit a lot more modest than their former elegant luxury home. Inside, the three sisters find Mom drinking and talking to a photo of her deceased husband, asking, “Do you think I wanted to give up? Do you think I want to make the girls suffer? These days, if I don’t drink I can’t fall asleep. Even if I eat, I don’t taste anything. And when I run into people, I don’t want to talk to them.”
It’s a sad enough sight to melt their indignation (which makes it brilliant if she’s acting, I’ll just say), and they look at her with sympathetic eyes. Gun-hee can’t bitch her out in this condition, and Min-jung pouts to have missed this chance.
Sun-hee puts Mom to bed, who tells her eldest that she’s worked hard being a mother figure over the years, and that she has to turn her other girls into people.
In the kitchen, the youngest sister Min-ji finally makes her appearance, just as Gun-hee looks through the financial ledgers left out by Mom. Taking a glance at the numbers, she declares that the company is headed for ruin.
Gun-hee takes Mom water and broaches the subject, asking if she can help. Mom asks what she wants, pointing out that Gun-hee never offers a thing without receiving something from it: “If I didn’t get you a present on Children’s Day, you wouldn’t pin a carnation for me on Mother’s Day. You said giving means receiving.”
Gun-hee makes her proposal, presenting it as an idea meant for Mom’s benefit: If she sells now, she can get a good price for the company, “So join up with my company.” Ha, but Mom doesn’t bite, and sends Gun-hee away grumbling.
Kang-jae offers to cancel his lawsuit, but has a condition. So it is that Gun-hee ends up taking the English interview after all.
At home, Mom conducts boarder interviews, which proceed under the cheeky banner “Boardinghouse Exam K” (to mimic Superstar K, natch). Sun-hee asks questions to one finalist, JANG-WON (Lee Min-woo), but Mom interrupts to ask him to explain his reasons for delaying marriage.
He replies that it’s probably that he’s grown afraid of marriage; in this day and age, people are able to compare themselves with others virtually in real time, and it makes him afraid that he might not be able to treat the woman he loves as well as others could. “It’s sad, isn’t it, to not be able to treat the one you love well.” Sun-hee is fully in accord, agreeing that being held up to others’ comparisons is a sad thing. He returns, “Doing the comparing is a sad thing, too.”
Sun-hee definitely has an immediate response to him; they seem to be on a similar wavelength. But as Jang-won leaves, another sister also has an immediate liking for him; maknae Min-ji perks up to recognize him as a famous movie stunt director.
Gun-hee gives the English speech, explaining cheerily that she’s in charge of the kimchi development division, but has some lazy and incompetent employees. But fear not, she’ll be transforming them. Others note that she only has one employee, so this is really just a pointed barb at Kang-jae, haha.
Kang-jae watches this and thinks to himself, “I am being insulted in English. This feels strange and lonely. And since I can’t understand completely, I’m scared.” Aw, that’s adorable, especially accompanied by his sad little-boy pout.
He gets an email from his errand-service request, which turns out to be a background check on Mom and her kimchi company. Dad interrupts to kick him and complain that he keeps embarrassing the company, and warns him again to make that merger happen, OR ELSE.
Gun-hee wraps up her speech with a smile, and Kang-jae fumes. When she gets back to their office, she accidentally knocks over a mug and gets a chill down her spine. She wonders why she feels such foreboding, and encounters a number of little bad-luck signs on her way out of the building: a scraped bumper, a black cat.
Then Sun-hee calls to inform her that her employee was just by the house… for an interview.
Gun-hee insists that they can’t let him in, that he drives her absolutely nuts, that there’s no way he can move in. Mom doesn’t like that he’s from Sangcharim, but the two younger sisters vote to let him.
Sun-hee’s the deciding vote, and she takes her time letting us know, all while Gun-hee screams at her, Noooooooooooo!
This episode plays up the comedy angle, but we can see the emotional groundwork being laid with Mom’s decision to change directions completely to save her family. I don’t actually know that she’s going to be selling the company; I can see it being an excuse to give her daughters, because we saw in the previous episode that Chinjung’s business affairs are prosperous and ripe (har har) for expansion. On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if Mom was actually backing away from her business as a last-ditch effort to “turn her daughters into people,” as she puts it.
I have a mixed reaction to the character of Gun-hee, and she can get a little much, especially when dealing with Mom. The thing is, I can relate with her and understand how she can have made herself so tough that she has a hard time not being tough. Take the moment in the first episode when she snaps at mom, then winces to herself; she didn’t mean to be hurtful, but she can’t bring herself to extend herself and apologize, either.
She was actually worse in this episode, sniping about proving herself, and it makes me wonder if there’s more to the Mom-friction than is on the surface. I don’t mean in a super-melodramatic makjang sense, but in the way that a long-buried resentment may fester, perhaps even without her realizing it. She has that prickly offense-as-defense knee-jerk reaction down pat. And it’s also because I can relate to Gun-hee so well that it also gets to me, in that we can be less tolerant of flaws in people that we see in ourselves.
So I understand Gun-hee and find her an interesting heroine, all while having a hard time getting past her screechiness sometimes. I am encouraged, however, by the fact that the whole premise of the show is that she’ll be changing. Mom’s determined to save her girls from themselves, and repairing broken connections that she may have contributed to breaking, albeit unintentionally, when she immersed herself in building up the business and left the mothering to Sun-hee.
Kang-jae, on the other hand, isn’t a character I necessarily connect with yet, but he’s flat-out hilarious so I enjoy watching him fume and grumble under Gun-hee’s supervision. As a boss, he was a snide, douchebag of a misogynist. But as the underling? He’s petty and boyish and freakin’ hilarious. These two have so much antagonistic chemistry that you almost think that if the smallest thing turns things romantic, they’re a powder keg just waiting to explode.
- Marriage Plot: Episode 1
- An introduction to tvN’s Marriage Plot
- Kang Hye-jung returns to television in The Marriage Plot